WHAT WAITS IN THE RED: More Of The Same
While the filmmaking ambition of this low budget production can't be faulted, What Waits In The Red feels overly familiar and somewhat cliched.
What Waits In The Red is an independent film made by the author of the forthcoming book on which it is based. Written and directed by David Ince What Waits In The Red is a familiar story of the old dance with the devil. A play on the Faustian legend, and the idea of selling your soul to the devil, the film begins with Corinne (Charlotte Donachie) and Ryan (William Turner Roden), a down on their luck couple.
As Corinne and Ryan turn to more and more desperate means to remedy their situation they are led to the door of Angelika (Meryl Griffiths) and eventually her daughter Amelia (Vanessa Stevenson). The film goes on to combine the two story arcs, as Corinne and Ryan attempt to track down Amelia, and Amelia goes on a journey of her own. Meanwhile a theme as old as time emerges; would you sell you soul to the devil if you could have everything you ever wanted? Unfortunately it’s a theme we all know, we’ve seen before, and which this film does nothing to enhance.
The first thing I should really say about this film is that even with the incredibly low budget and tight schedule the film was made in, this is a really well-made film. The production is pretty faultless, the locations have been chosen very well, and the cinematography is excellent. Although I did find flipping between wide angle shots of Corinne and Ryan, and extreme close-ups of Amelia kind of off putting. The grading, and sound mixing were also pretty excellent. Not bad when you have only have a budget of £7450.
What Waits In The Red is a great example of what can be made on a small budget. Filmed over only fifteen days with an eight person crew the actors also doubled up on technical roles. What is more the production could only store an hour of footage a day. All this speaks of a very organised production manager; an outstanding one to be honest. However, while it looks and feels like a complete and proper film, What Waits In The Red is actually not that interesting to watch.
Did He Just Say That?
As previously mentioned What Waits In The Red is based on an old story, so it’s familiar ground, but outside of this the film (in many ways) just doesn’t make much sense. Corinne and Ryan are a down on their luck couple, sleeping in their car, shoplifting to survive. We don’t know what they did before this, or how they became to be so broke, we just know that Ryan’s brother is a bit of a dick and he won’t help them. At the end of the story we find they were nice, middle-class couple who just lost their jobs and got evicted. But that doesn’t really make us empathise with them, even if we’d known that at the beginning.
Corinne and Ryan just aren’t a convincing couple, they don’t seem particularly interested in each other or at all attracted to one another. Corinne flits between starved and desperate, and seemingly to have everything under control like some sort Lady Macbeth character. While Ryan doesn’t seem to like Corinne much but then will do desperate things to make life better for her. I didn’t find Charlotte Donachie’s performance as Corinne particularly convincing, William Turner Roden perhaps more so, but I never really cared for either character. I could also never get my head around why, when Corinne was shoplifting tuna, she had a brand new moleskin notebook to write in (those things aren’t cheap).
While the characters aren’t particularly interesting, their story is even less so. After living in their car for a while they resort to crime. Or more importantly they wait outside a house where it just so happens a very drunk, rich woman (Angelika) leaves her front door open and Ryan attacks her, leaving her for dead. When he reappears with her handbag he takes out a solicitor’s business card and for some reason keys into the idea that Angelika has left something important with the solicitor. I don’t know where he got this idea from but this is what leads to the next part of the story, so without it the plotline would fall flat.
I’ve Seen You Before
The main crux of the narrative rests on Amelia. A lung specialist of some sort Amelia at least has some sort of depth to her, but then she’s overwrought and while I found Vanessa Stevenson kind of endearing I only cared for Amelia slightly more than Corinne and Ryan, which was not much. Amelia is Angelika’s daughter, and Amelia finds out her mother’s died from possibly the least empathetic dick of a police officer you could write. Okay, he’s not awful, but he is annoyingly insistent on the kind of questions you shouldn’t ask someone just after their mother’s died.
On cue Amelia is invited into the office of her mother’s rather clichéd solicitor, where she is presented with a box holding an old pushdown bell. And there’s one thing I’ll say, it’s a nice box. Kudos to the prop department. But the whole box motif has been done before, if you think of nothing else you’ll at least remember Richard Kelly’s film The Box. Amelia rings the bell and the film turns into your typical Faustian narrative; would you sell your soul to have everything you ever wanted?
This is made all the more familiar by the fact that the devil Jabez here (played by Kim Hardy) is a carbon copy of Robert De Niro’s Louis Cyphre in Angel Heart. I’m not entirely sure if this was accidental or a homage, either way it’s a poor choice. This devil is clichéd and uninteresting. When Amelia eventually comes face to face with Corinne and Ryan, Jabez plots his escape from the netherworld. Which is when the narrative really gets going, but by this point it all feels too familiar and as a result, kind of boring.
I can’t doubt that a great deal of good work has been done to make this independent film stand out in terms of production but as a story, as a piece of entertainment, the depth just isn’t there. Added to this is the fact that it contains a number of familiar stories, myths and tropes which have been done time and time again. There is a story here about morality, about how low we can sink when we’re desperate. There is some hope that Amelia will triumph while Corinne and Ryan will sink into hell, but you never really know that much about them to know what might happen. And by the time the ending comes around you’re sort of done caring.
Have you seen What Waits In The Red, what did you think?
An unsuccessful indiegogo campaign has delayed the distribution of What Waits In The Red and so it is not available on general release, however it has been making appearances on the film festival circuit. For further information on release dates you can check in on the filmmaker’s website here.
“The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace. It’s time to do something about it.” Read the Letter of Solidarity here. Make a donation to the legal fund here.